Friday, December 18, 2015
Billy Long: Foreign companies must follow our laws if they want to compete here
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act. This bill included many procedures to strengthen the enforcement of our trade laws and set important parameters to future trade deals that ensure our importation laws will not be changed. Among the many improvements this legislation makes to our trade policies, I am proud to say that this bill’s passage also included Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tariff evasion policy changes that I’ve been fighting for ever since I came to Congress.
Right now, some of America’s trading partners violate U.S. trade laws in order to illegally “dump” products into our country. These importers will do everything to deceive U.S. border agents, including falsifying documents about their imports and, in a process called transshipment, moving goods through third party nations. For example, when a steel company based in China reaches their American export quota they could ship their products to a port in Malaysia where false country of origin labels are applied. Then, under falsified documents, they are shipped to America where the camouflaged merchandise circumvents our anti-dumping laws. In some cases, these importers are caught. However, a timely process for prosecuting these criminals is non-existent, allowing some to escape punishment. Ultimately, this costs the United States millions and devastates domestic manufacturers.
I have always been an outspoken proponent of free trade, but we must ensure that foreign companies follow American laws if they want to compete in American markets. Otherwise, some of the benefits of free-trade agreements can be lost to foreign competitors who systematically work to game the system. Duty evasion has a very real impact that harms American workers and can cost us jobs – including hundreds right here in Missouri’s 7th Congressional District. When I was elected to Congress, I sought to ensure that our border law enforcement officials were given the modern tools necessary to combat deliberately misclassified and fraudulently documented imported goods.
I have twice introduced the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion (ENFORCE) Act to help fix this problem. This year, I continued the fight to gather support for this legislation and was glad to see it pass the House as part of the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act. It’s been a five-year battle for me in an attempt to protect jobs in Southwest Missouri.
The bill speeds up the investigation of evading companies and individuals and requires larger bond postings from suspects. It creates a new framework to investigate incoming foreign goods that could be purposely misidentified to evade CBP officials. Additionally, domestic companies will be able to petition the CBP to investigate suspected illegal practices and deploy resources to ports where evasion is most common.
Going forward, the ENFORCE Act provisions will help ensure that products from companies that attempt to evade our laws are properly taxed by giving CBP the necessary tools to screen them. As your Congressman, I will continue to monitor the success of this legislation and continue to fight against fraudulent foreign competitors whose wrongdoings could harm our local and national economies.